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Security budget faces scrutiny from CaPRI, US Embassy

Published:Monday | January 25, 2016 | 12:06 AM

Jamaica's national security budget will be put under the microscope today at a forum that is being jointly staged by the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI) and the United States Embassy.

CaPRI's director, Dr Damian King, said the forum, which will feature Minister of Security Peter Bunting and the United States Ambassador to Jamaica Luis Moreno, will examine "where the country needs to go and how the Government, civil society, private organisations, and individuals can help move us there".

Jamaica's murder rate stands at 44 per 100,000, following a 20 per cent in murders in 2015 when compared with data from the previous year. The national social partnership, which comprises the Government, the Opposition, and civil society, revised the target to 25 per 100,000 by this year.

The country is currently undergoing an International Monetary Fund-supported economic reform programme which has constrained government expenditure in many areas.

National security, however, continues to receive significant funding through the national Budget. This year, $56.4 billion has been approved by Parliament for national security matters, more than $30 million of which is being spent on the police force.

"There is a necessary tension between trying to maintain the fiscal prudence that the Government has committed to and at the same time recognising that crime and insecurity continue to be a major challenge in society and that we have to find ways to address the problem, and those ways often require increased expenditure," King said.

"Security is often thought of as entailing the use of security personnel and being highly combative. There are many initiatives that can be put in place as crime-prevention strategies that have nothing to do with the armed forces or police," King said.

"Providing opportunities for youth so that they can stay off the streets and earn a living can be considered a crime-prevention strategy. Unfortunately, politics and effective policies don't often come together seamlessly," he added.